‘Cuse Countdown Analysts Look at SU’s Chances vs. Wake Forest
Syracuse (16-8, 5-6 ACC) gets set to take on Wake Forest (9-15, 2-10 ACC) for the second time this season. The Orange returns to the Carrier Dome riding a high after beating Louisville on the road almost a week ago. Wake Forest gave SU trouble earlier this season in Winston-Salem, starting a 4-game losing streak for the Orange to open up 2018. Our analysts give some insight into part two of the matchup.
Key to the Game: Play Consistently
It’s no secret that this Syracuse team has had trouble with consistency this year, especially on the offensive side of the ball. The Orange scored 44 points at home in last week’s loss to UVA, the lowest amount of points ever scored in the Carrier Dome by a Syracuse team, then it went on the road and scored 78 points in Louisville. Syracuse needs to find its stride on offense and find a way to follow up one good offensive performance with another, which it has had trouble doing all season.
Prediction: Syracuse 66-61
The offense will have another solid performance for the Orange in this one, albeit not quite as stellar as the showing in Louisville. Wake Forest’s ability to move the ball and generate assists could give Syracuse trouble, which is why this game could be closer than expected. Tyus Battle and Frank Howard combined 47 of the Orange’s 78 points in Louisville, and the two guards will have to have another standout performance to lead the Syracuse offense to victory.
Key to the Game: Keep the Spacing
In one way or another the key to the game for Syracuse most of the time this season is going to be scoring. The Orange boasts the 11th best defense in the country, but SU is towards the bottom of the nation in scoring. When Syracuse scores 70 points or more the squad is 12-1 this season. That one loss was the double overtime loss to Florida State. Meanwhile, when the Orange struggles to score, putting up 60 points or less, SU is just 2-5. So if Syracuse wants to take down a sub .500 Wake squad the Orange needs to put up some points.
Prediction: Syracuse 69-60
Syracuse needs to hold serve at home in these next 2 home games. In a game where the Orange looks to get back to .500, I expect the Orange to show up. Part of the reason for the confidence in SU stems from the Demon Deacons mediocre defense. Wake Forest allows just over 75 points per game which is the worst in the ACC. Needing a victory and less than stellar defensive opposition should lead to victory this weekend for the Orange.
Key to the Game: Oshae Brissett’s Performance
Syracuse has received key scoring contributions from Guards Frank Howard and Tyus Battle all year long. But in Monday’s victory over Louisville, SU also needed all 16 of Oshae Brissett’s points to hold off the Cardinals. Conversely, the freshman managed just nine points in the ‘Cuse’s loss to Virginia. If the Orange wants to continue its offensive success on Saturday, Brissett needs to be a factor.
Prediction: Syracuse 67-58
Wake Forest picked up a victory over ‘Cuse on January 3, and now the Orange have a chance to return the favor inside the Carrier Dome. SU is 12-3 on its home floor this season, and enters this weekend’s matchup off a win versus Louisville that Jim Boeheim called his “best win in a long time.” Expect Syracuse to build on that momentum and take care of business against the Demon Deacons.
Key to the Game: Ability to Dribble-Drive
In the Louisville game, ‘Cuse was able to take defenders off the ball and get to the rack for some easy buckets. The Orange had 30 points in the paint against the Cardinals. And if Frank Howard and Tyus Battle weren’t actually scoring in the paint, they were opening things up for shooters on the perimeter. This aggressive offensive game plan leads to easy buckets for the Orange, which is the perfect solution to Syracuse’s stagnant offense. Wake Forest looked vulnerable in man to man defense in their last outing at Miami. The Demon Deacons surrendered 34 points in the paint. ‘Cuse needs to take advantage of Wake’s defensive shortcomings.
Prediction: Syracuse 74-65
The offensive explosion at Louisville seemed to come out of nowhere. Everyone seemed to contribute. I think the small ball approach with Marek Dolezaj opens up some opportunities for this offense. He can handle the ball and knock down a mid-range jumper, unlike Syracuse’s seven footers. The Orange offense is on an upswing, and I expect ‘Cuse’s “big three” to dominate. The 2-3 zone will agitate Wake’s biggest threat in Bryant Crawford. Look for the Orange to protect its home court with a NCAA tournament bid still on the table.
Key to the Game: Turn Defense into Offense
This Syracuse offense got going on Monday night thanks to strong play on the other side of the ball. SU had twenty points off turnovers against Louisville and sixteen alone in the first half. Fortunately for Syracuse, it shouldn’t be too hard to repeat that performance against Wake Forest. The young Demon Deacons are 14th in the ACC in turnovers with an average of almost fourteen giveaways per game.
Prediction: Syracuse 73-68
Wake Forest might not have many ACC wins this season but the Demon Deacons have kept almost every single game close. SU’s going to have to work for this one. However, at the end of the day, the Orange just have too much size. As long as SU does a better job of containing Bryant Crawford, the Demon Deacons will fly back down south without their first ACC road win of the season.
Key to the Game: Control the Pace of Play
Syracuse checks in outside the top-300 when it comes to possessions per game. Wake Forest’s top-200 ranking in that category feels like light speed in comparison. The Orange defense is extremely challenging to score on when it has time to get set, but SU has struggled when teams pile up fast break points. Syracuse can win games if it stays in them, and preventing easy buckets and quick scoring runs is what will keep the Orange step for step with the Demon Deacons.
Prediction: Syracuse 63-58
Syracuse is the better team. Syracuse is playing at home. Syracuse is coming off a big win over Louisville. With all that said, this team feels impossible to pick for. While Jim Boeheim has said it comes down to the guard play, I would take it one step further and say it comes down to point guard Frank Howard. The nice thing about Howard is that he tends to play well when he is hot, and the junior is coming off a 22-point performance. Howard will play well and as a result, Syracuse will get the home win.
Key to the Game: Keep Doral Moore Away from the Glass
Even though Syracuse was amongst the best rebounding squads in non-conference play, remember when Jim Boeheim called out his team’s effort off missed shots early in ACC play? Well, the Orange must ramp up its energy around the basket and focus on Wake Forest’s athletic seven-footer Doral Moore. The center fouled out in his last matchup against Miami, but still hauled in ten rebounds in just 20 minutes of play. SU center Paschal Chukwu’s sole responsibility in this one may be to box out the opposing center so that his teammates can corral the rebounds. Moore is the fourth-best rebounder in the ACC, but if ‘Cuse can limit his activity in the paint on both ends of the court, expect favorable results.
Prediction: Syracuse 74-68
The Orange cannot afford another offensive snooze-fest against Wake Forest, but no better time to score the basketball against a Danny Manning-led team that ranks outside the top 225 in scoring defense. The last opponent that ‘Cuse defeated, Louisville, scored 96 points against the Deacon Deacons earlier this season. Yes, patterns are challenging to discover during this Syracuse 2017-18 campaign; however, WF has surrendered an average of 84.2 points over its last five contests away from Winston-Salem. While it may be a stretch to say this is a must-win with seven regular season games remaining, if the Orange’s resume is tarnished by two losses to a weak Wake Forest team, don’t expect Otto to lead the conga line in March.
Key to the Game: Stop Bryant Crawford
In SU’s last game against Wake, Crawford exploded for 19 points, with most of the damage coming from behind the arc. Syracuse’s zone is susceptible to be taken advantage of by shooters with range, who can spread out the zone and allow for their opponents to feed the ball into the high-post. If Syracuse wants to win this one, they need to protect the perimeter. This will allow the Orange to defend the high post and limit easy scoring on the inside. However, it all starts with defending the three-point shot, and Wake’s most lethal threat, Crawford.
Prediction: Syracuse 67-63
Against Louisville, Marek Dolezaj notched an excellent game a starter. The freshman forward continues to prove he is more valuable in the lineup than Matthew Moyer because he continues to fill up the stat sheet. Dolezaj finished with eight points, six rebounds, two assists, and two steals. His ability to effect the game outside of scoring the ball is valuable for any 4/5 in Syracuse’s zone. As Dolezaj gains confidence, especially with his jump shot, SU’s win total will continue to rise.